…and why you should care too!
Posted on behalf of the DECA Board
DECA’s mission and guiding principles drive our way forward, and we are non-partisan, but we are also committed to being “a responsive, credible and representative voice for the community.”
Earlier this week, the provincial government tabled a Bill called The Better Local Government Act to dramatically reduce the size of City Council in the midst of our ongoing election, which began on May 1st. The Bill passed first reading on July 30, and could be imposed on the citizens of Toronto as early as August 2018. This is particularly unsettling because our City had legally established the number of councillors/wards through due process and extensive consultations.
As a Board, we find ourselves in a moment where we must respond.
DECA believes that the decision to unilaterally reduce Toronto City Council from 47 Wards to 25 is undemocratic.
We have observed that our City Councillors already work well beyond a normal work-week. We are concerned that doubling their workload would significantly limit their ability to continue to be effective partners in community-building. This will change the extent to which Councillors can proactively reach out to us on emerging issues and their ability to be responsive when we raise an issue or concern.
The proposed new Ward boundaries will negatively impact our community.
City Councillors are involved in decisions that will forever impact our neighbourhood, such as development, transit, parks, and infrastructure. Other decisions are less permanent but have a high impact such as property taxes, childcare, bike lanes and speed limits.
Currently, DECA’s excellent two-way relationship and collaboration with our City Councillors greatly contributes to our ability to support and improve the community.
Here are some examples:
- help with permits for community events, such as the tree lighting and pumpkin walks in East Lynn Park;
- our go-to whenever something goes wrong like a wading pool not being on or that time the City fenced off the East Lynn Park playground and dug up the greenspace to install paths;
- when we raised with Councillors that the traffic lights at Woodbine and Danforth was changing too quickly for many people to safely get across, within a week the timing had been extended;
- sought out DECA input and acted on our concerns about the planned the second exit (Strathmore) at Woodbine station to change the plan to make it also an entrance; and
- include DECA in early consultations on development proposals, which in at least one case, resulted in huge changes to the building design to incorporate street-level retail to help make the Danforth more walkable and safe.
It will be impossible for only 25 City Councillors to maintain the current level of collaboration and cooperation with the community.
Councillors have huge agendas and a full range of issues to learn about. They also need to understand the impacts on our community and bring those forward. For example, how could one person understand the community impacts on every single issue in a way that would adequately represent the Beach, Danforth East, Woodbine Heights, Parkview Hills, and Crescentown?
Federal/provincial ridings are suitable because MPs/MPPs work is driven by their parties and/or portfolios and they deal with bigger picture issues not specific to one neighbourhood, park, household, or person. These are not reasonable boundaries for City representation.
We’ve just scratched the surface here and we will write more about this in the coming days and weeks. But if there ever was a moment to be engaged and speak out, now is the time!
We will be at the East Lynn Park Farmers’ Market on Thursday, August 2 to discuss this with the community. Come chat with us and tell us what you think!